Are performance byes worth it? — Quotes from Beijing — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, Oct. 3, 2023

Howdy, y’all and Happy Tennis Tuesday! Last week, we discussed the WTA calendar, but a new issue has become a focus point off of the court — performance byes and the tennis balls used throughout the season.

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First, lets talk about performance byes. For those who aren’t familiar, byes into the second round are normally given to the top-ranked players in the draw. They help ensure that the best players have a greater chance of progressing deeper into the tournament. Normally, in a 32-player draw, a tournament will give the top four seeds a bye, while larger draws give more byes.

This became a hot topic after the WTA 1000 in Guadalajara that preceded the WTA 500 in Tokyo, giving the four semifinalists a free entry into the second round to help them acclimate to the next event. Elena Rybakina went to Instagram to voice her frustration at the byes, with her coach also going on a tangent:

However, they both must’ve forgotten that 1. performance byes were used in the past, including Madrid to Rome and Wuhan to Beijing and 2. it was in the rulebook the entire season. This wasn’t put in last minute to take away byes from the top seeds like Rybakina suggested. It’s up to the player and their team to be aware of all of the rules that are either new or being put back in place. Sure, a player could argue that the WTA didn’t do enough to alert players at their annual meetings throughout the year, but again, performance byes aren’t a new concept — even if it’s being called a trial.

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This week, the four Tokyo semifinalists received performance byes into the WTA 1000 in Beijing, which you could potentially argue their fairness. Should players receive a bye into a higher level event? Ons Jabeur, who won the WTA 250 in Ningbo last week, didn’t receive a bye and displayed her confusion regarding performance byes, while World No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka echoed Jabeur:

 Well, I mean, I knew they sent this email earlier, that everyone knows about this performance bye, but I kind of like didn’t get it. I thought it was like extra byes. I don’t understand that. Players getting byes from playing semifinals on the lower tournament, they getting bye on 1000 tournament, I don’t get it.

I think you have to own these byes. You have to own it by consistency of your game, not just by playing good at one tournament, then you get this advantage. No, you have to deserve it. I don’t understand that. I don’t agree with that.

I mean, I’m happy for those players who got it, but I think this is not acceptable. I think — not I think, but I hope it’s not going to be the same later.

I mean, it would be understandable if it would be from 1000 in Guadalajara to 1000 here. I mean, I got it, of course take it. But not from 500 tournament to 1000 tournament.

Aryna Sabalenka

Personally, I don’t think players in a WTA 250 or 500 should get a performance bye into a WTA 1000, but it’s also hard on players to leave Tokyo late Saturday night for China and essentially play as soon as they land with no time to practice or prepare. Iga Swiatek pointed that out after her first match in Beijing:

Honestly, I didn’t really dig into this rule so much because these are the first tournaments that I’m playing where it’s possible to get this kind of thing. But it’s been on tour for a long time.

I think it’s smart because usually when I had the tournaments, when I really played till the end, I know how it is to rush to another tournament and not really have time to rest and prepare. So I think that rule is fine. I think that rule makes sense. Yeah, it’s for sure different because usually the top-seeded player gets the bye.

I don’t know really ’cause I haven’t dig into this whole situation. I know there has been some fuss and misunderstanding.

I really just want to focus on myself. For me, doesn’t matter if I’m going to play one more match. It’s another opportunity for me to kind of win and to play. So it really doesn’t matter for me if I play another match or not.

Iga Swiatek

With the top WTA 1000 events becoming two-week tournaments, you’ll see less of these issues arise, but I can see why players are frustrated. My counterargument could tie into my Tennis Tuesday last week about the schedule; if players weren’t having to bounce thousands of miles and multiple time zones every single week, would this be as much of an issue as it’s become?

If the WTA created more of a flowing, regional-based calendar — or released their calendar ahead of time instead of minutes before said event — would players be able to plan and adapt their schedules more efficiently? Sure, the players need to be aware of any and all rules, but the WTA should also do a better in their office to avoid numerous players calling them out for their inefficiency to lead.

That being said, onto links!

This Week in Women’s Tennis

The WTA announced their election results with Victoria Azarenka remaining on the WTA Players’ Council, while Caroline Garcia finds herself elected for the first time. Elections were held for positions on the WTA Players’ Council, WTA Tournament Council and WTA Board of Directors.

Losing coach Wim Fisette to Naomi Osaka, Zheng Qinwen rallied to capture the singles gold medal and a Paris 2024 Olympic berth at the Asian Games with a win over Zhu Lin in the final. Alex Eala and Haruka Kaji were the bronze medalists.

In doubles, Latisha & Angel Chan won an all-Chinese Taipei final over Lee Ya-hsuan & Liang En-shuo, while bronze medals went to Aldila Sutjiadi & Janice Tjen and Back Da-yeon & Jeong Bo-young. In mixed doubles, Rutuja Bhosale & Rohan Bopanna, Liang En-shuo & Huang Tsung-hao and Chan Hao-ching/Hsu Yu-hsiou & Alex Eala/Francis Alcantara went 1-2-3.

Veronica Kudermetova won her second WTA singles title at the Toray Pan Pacific Open with an upset over Jessica Pegula, while Ulrikke Eikeri and Ingrid Neel saved two championship points to take the doubles crown over Eri Hozumi and Makoto Ninomiya.

Ons Jabeur took home her first hardcourt singles title at the Ningbo Open, taking out first-time WTA finalist Diana Shnaider. Vera Zvonareva and Laura Siegemund kept their WTA Finals hopes alive by winning the doubles title over Guo Hanyu and Jiang Xinyu.

Jessica Pegula and the doubles team of Storm Hunter and Elise Mertens are the newest names to qualify for the WTA Finals in Cancun, while Ons Jabeur is among the names looking to add her name to the list.

Ahead of Beijing, WTA Insider profiled Iga Swiatek, who is in a new position of chasing the No. 1 ranking again and Aryna Sabalenka, who is debuting as the world’s best and US Open champion Coco Gauff.

The Australian Open shared that they are extending the first round to three days, creating a 15-day event to help prevent super late finishes for players.

In news that I stan, Lindsay Davenport was named Kathy Rinaldi’s replacement to captain the United States Billie Jean King Cup team, starting next year.

Ana Ivanovic, Cara Black and Flavia Pennetta are among the nominees for next year’s induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Coco Gauff, who accepted a wildcard into next week’s tournament in Zhengzhou, is in China for the first time and took in some authentic Chinese experiences ahead of her first action since winning the US Open:

Peter Bodo delves into tennis’ anti-doping protocol and how Simona Halep’s case raises more questions than answers.

Add this to why we love Danimal:

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Tweet of the Week

Congrats to IX Friend Nicole Gibbs, who was inducted into the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame over the weekend. Her speech was great and I loved the last bit:

Five at The IX: China Open

Q. Having led the rankings for so long, I’m wondering in the last few weeks if you’ve had to shift your mindset in any way to being a chaser instead of being at the front of the line? Also, are you’re doing anything a little bit differently now that that’s happened as we move into the end of the season?

IGA SWIATEK: Well, I think it’s a little bit easier to come back to the mindset of chasing somebody because that’s what we’ve been doing our whole lives. There’s only one person who’s at No. 1. I think this was harder to get used to last season.

But honestly, it doesn’t really matter for me because I kind of, after US Open, I knew I’m going to drop to second position. I kind of stopped thinking about rankings at all ’cause I felt like there’s some baggage off my shoulders. I could focus more on just working and kind of getting back to the more, like, peaceful and normal rhythm of practicing, I would say.

I’m happy that, yeah, I have opportunity to not think about all of that because when you kind of finish the journey a little bit, you know it may happen in the future. It’s different because you’re just focusing on the future, not on defending something. I’m kind of using that.

But overall I’m also worried that it’s last tournaments of the season, so I’m not going to be 100% fresh. My main goal is to kind of do some stuff differently on court in terms of the technique and tactics to develop as a player, not really chase points or rankings.

Q. You also mentioned in the Asian Games that you ended a collaboration with your former coach. People had high expectations for your collaboration. It ended suddenly. How did it happen?

ZHENG QINWEN: Because during the US Open I knew he had contact with the team of Osaka. Right after the match, he said to me that he felt like he had no connection with me. He never said that to me before. Right after I was defeated, he said that to me.

I felt very strange. I talked to my manager. I asked my manager whether he will go to Osaka’s team. The manager said, no, he wouldn’t be that kind of person. But after resting for a week, he suddenly told me that he was going to work with Osaka.

It was quite a big impact to me and my team members and my family. I cried after hearing that. There were no fights, no arguments in our collaboration. There was nothing new to me in this collaboration, but also he did not do anything wrong.

I thought that was an unethical end to that collaboration. I understand that Osaka can provide a better offer to him. I understand from his perspective this might be a better position. He has a family to support. I understand his decision, but it doesn’t mean I will forgive him for making such a decision (smiling).

Q. In terms of how you felt going out on the court, first tournament since New York, first match as No. 1, did it feel any different at all getting up today for this match in terms of expectations, pressure, or did it feel like any other tournament that you’ve played?

ARYNA SABALENKA: Honestly, no different. Like, as I said before, it’s great to achieve this goal, but it’s not something I’m really thinking about.

I know that if I’m going to bring my tennis, if I’m going to play my best, if I’m going to fight for it, I’m going to stay there. So I feel like I don’t have to focus on the ranking. There is no extra pressure. Nothing changed, honestly.

I was No. 2, and now I’m No. 1. Not a big difference.

Q. You’ve been playing very well. A breakthrough in the US Open. In Osaka, as well as Guangzhou. Good performance in the finals. You withdrew from one of the events. Coming into Beijing, how do you feel about your physicality?

ZHU LIN: Because in the middle of this year I was injured. Coming into the North American season, I was finally slowly getting my game back.

The Asian Games was very important. I had to make sure that I’m 100% ready. So after Osaka, I had a short time for adjustment. If I was going to play Guangzhou again, I wouldn’t be ready for the Asian Games. That’s why I decided to withdraw from Guangzhou.

Beijing is different. It’s a WTA 1000 level event. Next year, going to the Paris Olympics, is also very important. I’ve been resting for two days, so I think I’m fresh enough for the match tomorrow.

Q. Congratulations on the Grand Slam performance. Can you talk about the magic moments you had together, not to mention this match today, but talk about the past cooperation, how did you make those magic moments happen?

WANG XINYU: We’ve been working very well together. Good chemistry. No matter what the results were, we’ve been encouraging each other.

In terms of the style of play, very similar. We complement each other.

HSIEH SU-WEI: We’re really happy. Not much pressure. We have been really happy in these Grand Slams, just trying our best.

We’re really close in the race to the Finals, so we are working hard for that.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon